Today, I’m living juxtapositions. My day started at the Bellamy-Ferraday House, where the Connecticut Chapter of JASNA had its annual Box Hill Picnic. First, we had a private tour of the house. What really stood out for me are the ironies.
The land was bought from the Indians in the 1720s, and the first English families came in the 1730s. Well, in the winter, it was too far to go the seven miles into town for the Congregationalist Church. So now a newly minted parish, the farming area got its own minister, a very young Yale grad named Bellamy. This house was pretty fancy for the era and the isolated location near Bethlehem (ahem, Connecticut).
Mr. Bellamy made money from his sermons and pamphlets, but what I found so hilarious is that he wrote a best seller, True Religion Delineated, which according to our tour guide is completely unreadable today, even for ministry students. Bellamy made enough of a splash with the book that it became popular in England, too. Positively an 18th-century Stephen King!
His wealth came from such an unlikely source, when in the Colonies, fortunes were usually the way from trade. Bellamy lived really well, as did his descendants. So it took the last owner of the house to appear the most big-hearted and service-oriented. Again defying expectations, Caroline Ferraday ventured forward as an actress, with a glamor shot showing her to be a gorgeous lady. She contributed to the Victorian appearance and additions to the house. Living the good life.
But I think she’s remarkable for taking the global lead on helping the Jewish women who were experimented on at Dachau concentration camp, when literally no one else would. The details are too graphic and disturbing to include here. Suffice it to say, she made a difference and even became friends with some of the survivors.
The minister seemed to savor his money; the actress used hers to help others. Ironic.
Not being too far way, I then jumped on the Northwest Connecticut Arts Council Open Your Eyes artist studio tour. I had a wonderful conversation with Anne Delaney. For the tour, she luscious studies for works she may paint based on the particular tour setting. Instead of in her New York studio, this tour brought people to the Harwinton Community Hall, which also houses a jail. Delaney did graphite works of John Brown and other more abstracted figures along this theme.
I picked up this little painting from her Family Car series, loving the back-of-the-head invitation into the painting.
She also told me about a friend who has made a documentary film on the Baroque artist Artemesia Genileschi, juxtaposing the artist’s story with her effect on women today, including the filmmaker.
Here’s the trailer from the film “A Woman Like That.” It’s on the film festival and university circuit, so keep you eyes open for it.
Judith Bird makes these lovely mash-ups of Mexican-style retablos and the fanciful color and magic realism of an artist like Florine Stettheimer. Bird loves using birds in her work, as they touch both heaven and earth, soar and are grounded. I love that!
You can see the artist’s sweetness in Wild Wood Bird.” The painting definitely has the devotional feel of the folk art retablo with her own eponymous bird symbol.
The funniest mash-ups of the day came from 84-year-old artist Salvatore Gulino. Sal was really why I went on the tour, and we talked for almost an hour about his work and his life. He is extremely modest about his work and that I would go ga ga over it. But really, what art historian wouldn’t?
Forget Modigiliani, I”m turning over in my grave.
A classical portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni by Ghirlandaio juxtaposed on a classic screen-shot.
And neither will you, when you come to visit!